Richland police say goodbye to K9 ‘Boy’

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K9 Officer “Boy” passed away on Sunday, April 16. That Wednesday, his fellow officers gave him a funeral befitting their canine brother in blue. Dustin Barnes/The Clarion-Ledger

The last call for Richland police K9 Boy filled the parking lot of the Richland Community Center Wednesday as a light rain began to fall.

“All units, K9 Boy answered his last call on April 16, 2017. Boy will be missed by his community, his brothers in blue, and his handler Det. John Harris and his family,” the radios echoed. “Godspeed K9 Boy, your service here is done.”

Among the gathering of law enforcement officers, firefighters, family, friends and community members, there was hardly a dry eye. From the marked vehicles in the parking lot, even the K9 contingency could be heard from time to time.

Boy was a 15-year-old Belgian Malinois who had spent 13 years on the force with Richland Police Department. Just like many other officers, he went to work on Thursday and then took off for the Easter weekend.

On Easter Sunday, the decorated drug dog was playing in the yard with Harris’ 4-year-old daughter when he collapsed and died, Harris said.

The funeral was held to celebrate and honor Boy’s life, but Harris said he knew going into it that it would take the support of his fellow officers and his community to get him through it. The two had been partners for 11 years, more than half of Harris’ career as a K9 handler.

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As Boy’s body was taken from the Community Center, K9s and their handlers from around the metro area stood at attention as he passed, the silence broken only by the whimpers and barks of the dogs and the low hum of the police vehicles in the procession.

“I was dreading this day before I got here because I didn’t want to relive it because I miss him. We’ve been through so much together,” Harris said. “Nobody understands the bond you have with your partner like (K9 handlers and officers) do. I know we work with each other out on the street every day, but that little guy right there keeps me safe on the highway.”

Harris said the bonds are deep not just because of the time he and Boy spent together, but because of the emotions and situations they shared on the job.

“He’s my partner. He’ll stick his head up through his kennel and lay his head on my shoulder. I can tell him my problems, I can tell him what’s going on throughout the day,”  Harris said. “And if he hears me outside the car and hears someone raise their voice or me raising mine, he’s already standing up and barking, letting me know, ‘I’m watching.'”

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Even as recently as last year, Boy placed second in drug detection in the state competition, officials said.

Richland Police Department posted a Facebook tribute to the dog on Tuesday.

“K-9 boy was instrumental in the fight against drug trafficking in Rankin and Madison Counties. Although the Richland Police Department might obtain another K-9, Boy can never be replaced and will never be forgotten.”

Contact Therese Apel at 601-961-7236 or tapel@gannett.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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